Are Local Authorities ready? Industry concern for completion stage: BC(A)R SI.9 of 2014

by Bregs Blog admin team

Are-you-ready-for-the-Touch-Point-Explosion1

Many stakeholders do not believe local authorities are prepared for the new roles required for validation of completion documentation under SI.9 from 1st March 2014. In recent letters to ministers calling for deferral of SI.9 the president of the architects representative body the RIAI noted widespread concern at the resourcing of local authorities for the incoming legislation and the potentials for delays in the construction industry as a result “…Unfortunately the systems are not yet ready and have not been road-tested. Without streamlined administration, delays, confusion and frustration may be expected...”. From a recent RIAI “Interim Client Guidance Note” on 12th February to members the new validation/completion procedure is noted:

“...The Assigned Certifier and the Builder having collated all the required certificates identified in the Inspection Plan, collected from all those identified, sub-contractors, suppliers, testers, manufacturers and are satisfied that the building is built in accordance with the Building Regulations, co-sign the Statutory Completion Certificate and lodge it with the BCA, 3 -5 weeks in advance of the Completion date. The Building will not be permitted to be occupied, used or rented, without the building being placed on the Building Control Authority Register. …”

Under the Code of Practice issued by the Department, following submission by the relevant professionals of the completion information, there is a 3 week period when the local authority will deem the submission valid, or not, in which case the completion documentation will will be returned and revised documentation will need to be re-submitted. Second or subsequent submissions will require a 7 day period before validation (or return & invalidation). If local authorities do not respond within these timescales validation can be assumed by default (this process also has not been defined).

What the guidance or code of practice does not highlight is the lack of a formal appeals process, or any safeguards to mitigate repeat incorrect local authority determinations resulting in invalidations by local authorities (due to lack of resources or available competent staff). Due to the lack of appropriately qualified building control staff nationwide the possibility for administrative issues due to lack of upskilling of local authority staff is a concern. There is no upper limit on the number of re-submissions and the process may be open, for whatever reasons to undue influence.

This new completion procedure is critical for numerous occupants and end-users: fit-outs for large retail stores, licensing applications, users that have key-dates for occupancies. Large multiples when signing as anchors for larger shopping centers frequently have very onerous penalties for shell-and-core possession dates being missed: up to €100,000 per week in some instances. A delay of 4-5 weeks can lead to a very large contractual claim (€500k). Practically there may be a limit to how early design teams can apply for validation. For licensing applications previously certs of compliance along with planning permission documentation would have been required at legal proceedings. One colleague noted a fire officer was requested to be in attendance at one licensing hearing. With the introduction of SI.9 judges may well insist that validation by a local authority should be in place for any licensing application. Delays due resource levels allocated to completion & validation stage for BC(A)R SI.9 in local authorities should be of concern.

In 2007 there were less than 70 Building Control Officers for the entire country. Are the local authorities ready for 1st march 2014?

The RIAI, a key stakeholder involved in the deign of SI.9, is not convinced and has repeatedly called for deferral of the legislation. The Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland (SCSI) recently expressed these specific concerns in an article in the Sunday Business Post on 9th February 2014. The SCSI is another key stakeholder involved in the formation of SI.9. Competent professionals assuming the roles Certifiers under SI.9 will need to inform clients as to potential risks of claims & delays caused by inadequate staffing and validation procedures in local authorities.

Link to SCSI Sunday Business Post Article on 9th February 2014:

2014-02-09_Business Post

Links to RIAI letters requesting deferral to Minister Bruton and Minister Hogan (29th January and 15th January respectively):

RIAI_PRESIDENT_LETTER_TO_MINISTER_BRUTON

Letter_from_RIAI_President_to_Minister_Hogan_15Jan2014

Link to Code of Practice:

2014-02-07 Code of Practice Building Control Regulations 2014

Link to RIAI “Interim Client Guidance Advice”:

RIAI_InterimClientGuidanceNote_12Feb14

The above opinion piece was submitted by Maoilíosa Mel Reynolds on 14th February 2014.

 

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